Me (in my amazing Red hat, bottom left) and the wonderful Bristol Cross Country team at BUCS 2014 in Stirling

Me (in my amazing Red hat, bottom left) and the wonderful Bristol University Cross Country team at BUCS 2014 in Stirling

This is my first in a series of blog posts that is going to chart my training as I prepare for the London marathon in April.

So first of all, who am I? Well, my name is Judith and I’m a perpetual student. I’m one of those people who love to study and learn new things, at the moment I am in my second year studying for a PhD in Maths at the University of Bristol.

Things haven’t always been easy, I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for pretty much as long as I can remember. I have been plagued by days where I have panic attacks whenever I try to leave the house, or days when I simply cannot stop crying.

But now, 11 years after the first time I contemplated suicide, I am finally starting to get a hold on my illness and be able to not just cope with life, but even enjoy it every now and again. I want to blog about the highs and lows I have faced getting my depression recognised as an illness and receiving the treatment I needed.

So, back to the London Marathon. I have always enjoyed going for a casual jog; in fact, whenever I was stressed my mum would always send me out to jog a lap of the block, knowing it would calm me down. As my depression deepened, running became my time out for myself, to escape from the world and think things through in the peace and quiet. If I ran in the morning, before school, I found I could concentrate better in class and when I came to sleep in the evening it was far easier to switch my brain off and relax.

For me, running the London marathon is a great excuse to spend a few more hours a week out enjoying the beautiful countryside around Bristol, and a chance to take pride in my body and what it can achieve.

But running just wouldn’t be the same without my team. Having suffered social anxiety in the past, it wasn’t until my third year at university that I found joining a running club gave me a safe environment to meet people without any feeling any need or pressure to drink alcohol. We all have running in common, so immediately we have something to talk about, which eases the pressure to make small talk.

I don’t make every training session with my team, but every time I turn up I am always welcomed back. Everyone is invited, whether you lead the session and run for Great Britain, or whether you just about manage to finish the session, hanging off the back of the group.

Last Friday 30 students made their way from Bristol up to Stirling to race in the British Universities and Colleges cross country match. This is an amazing experience where around 700 men and 450 women from all across Britain’s universities came together to run around in the mud in Scotland, and be proud to be part of a team. This is something that, even four years ago I could never have dreamed of attending. Not for fitness, every ability is welcomed, but simply for being able to be surrounded by that many people and to be relaxed and happy.

I came 284th out of 440 in the women’s match, and I am completely delighted. I managed 6.4km (including some very tough hills) without having to stop and walk, and was cheered on the whole way round by people yelling my name or simply “come on Bristol” when they didn’t recognise me.

So, what’s my conclusion? I would encourage everyone to seek out their local cross country team. Not just if you have suffered from depression or anxiety, but everyone. To meet like-minded people, get fit, get some fresh air and be part of a team is fantastic, and there’s no way I would be even considering running London in 10 weeks if it weren’t for the amazing people down at Bristol University Cross Country Club.

Stirling Run

The start line of the ladies match at Stirling.